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MU complies with education reform act

Mary Kate Linehan

As students flood back to Oxford for a new semester, Miami University is working hard to meet requirements of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), which promised relief for cash-strapped college students and their parents.

General Counsel Robin Parker said the act is so extensive that it requires research and effort from several Miami faculty members.

"We have a team of people from across campus that have individual responsibilities to ensure compliance with portions of the Higher Education Opportunity Act," Parker said. "The act is huge and has many obligations. So basically we have divided into five teams to make the obligations."

Charles Knepfle, director of student financial assistance, said the HEOA was enacted Aug. 14, 2008, reauthorizing the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA).

"In 1965, Congress passed the Higher Education Act, and it's a whole fleet of laws that affected and basically created financial aid and created various programs," Knepfle said.

Miami is working to comply with the reauthorization of the HEA with the teams Parker described by July 1.

One such team focuses on the Textbook Cost Containment area of the HEOA. This revision requires institutions to disclose textbook costs and the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) of every required and recommended textbook and supplemental materials on course schedules.

"For example, the disclosure textbook information that is required, there is a team of three people who are working to ensure compliance with that," Parker said.

Along with the textbook cost containment revision, Randi Thomas, director of institutional relations, explained there were several other changes under the HEOA such as Fire Safety, Campus Safety, the Pell Grant Program, Dual Enrollment, spending charts for higher education, and Default Cohort Loans.

Thomas said specific teams of faculty will examine each change to ensure Miami complies. Parker added the team will meet Thursday to update where each separate group is with different pursuits and projects regarding the HEOA.

Knepfle said the act gives Congress a mandate to review those rules within the act every five years.

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Parker said the most recent revisions occurred Oct. 29, 2009, when the Department of Education published final regulations in the Federal Register.

The revisions will be effective July 1 and include amending the Federal Perkins Loan Program (Perkins Loan), Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, and the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (Direct Loan).

Parker said the team has been working on the revisions from the reauthorization for the past year.

"We've been at it for a year, the act was passed last spring and we knew we had to start but in some places we have had to wait on the federal government to issue regulations," Parker said. "We are working on all areas that have been revised under the HEOA in preparation for the disclosures and that will come in the next year."

Knepfle said complying with the reauthorization has not posed major problems for Miami.

"It's not an issue for Miami," Knepfle said. "It wasn't an issue with the old act for Miami and neither is the new revision to the act."